Teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash

Loose leash walking is when your dog walks within leash range with no excess pressure exerted on the leash.  It implies that your dog is able to keep pace with you without getting pulling or lunging toward variables you may encounter in walking situations.

Why do dogs pull on leash?

Fun and adventure, other dogs, intriguing smells or even stress and anxiety are all motivations for pulling.  If pulling gets them where they want faster it’s a strategy they’ll be sure to repeat.  It is best to teach dogs loose-leash walking as early as possible.  The longer your dog practices the harder it is for him to give up the habit.

Why train Loose Leash Walking?

To spare your arms and your dog’s trachea! It is not fun or safe for you to have a dog take you for a walk and pulling while wearing a collar can actually damage your dog’s throat or thyroid.

Since most municipalities have leash laws, training them to walk without pulling is in everyone’s best interest.

How toTrain a Dog to Walk on a Loose Leash

Step 1: Anchor (Channel your inner seat belt!)

  • You must first set the expectation that pulling won’t get you to budge. Relax your arms, balance your posture, and breathe!
  • When your dog looks back at you, praise and reinforce.
  • Once your dog stands on a loose leash use a treat to lure them to your side so that you stand knee to shoulder.
  • Then take a step! Stop every step or two and change direction frequently reinforcing your dog for catching up to you.

Step 2: Grow your walk step by step.

  • Once your dog realizes that pulling is no longer effective, you’ll become the best source of good things, so long as you pay out.
  • Once he anticipates the lure to side add a step BEFORE giving him the reinforcer.
  • Initially you will reward eye contact and checks in or every step or two.
  • Gradually increase the number of steps in between rewards.
  • Pulling may return as new distractions are introduced. Simply Anchor and wait until he loops back around to your side. You may call his name once but often it is best to let the dog choose on his own to return.
  • Make it a game! Change your pace or direction frequently to keep things interesting for your dog.

Training Tip

It’s often easier for dogs to focus after a short burst of exercise.  Tools like the Gentle Leader or a Front Connect Harness can also neutralize some of your dog’s pulling power.

Troubleshooting your Dog Training Troubles

If your dog is struggling try increasing the frequency or value of your reinforcer.  If that doesn’t work your dog may be over threshold.  Many dogs pull because they are stressed or over-aroused and you must first address the root of their behavior.  Stop frequently and stay close to the house if your dog pants, paces, or has a hard time focusing.